Switched On – NETHERWORLD: Algida Bellezza (Glacial Movements)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

There is a deeply personal story behind the composition of Algida Bellezza. The man behind NETHERWORLD is the founder of Glacial Movements, Alessandro Tedeschi, and he wrote the core music of the album, which loosely translates as ‘frozen beauty’, in 2015. Each of the five ‘movements’ were born – literally – as he cradled his new daughter. In June 2019 the music was mixed and mastered by Tedeschi’s good friend, sound engineer Matteo Spinazzè Savaris – and the completed album ready for release.

As the cover would suggest it is a great example of Tedeschi’s chilly ambience, which this time takes the all-important Greenland sled dog as its principal focus. The titles of the five tracks all relate to a prominent species of the area – respectively Vulpes lagopus (Arctic Fox), Somniosus microcephalus (Greenland Shark), Orcinus orca (Orca), Monodon monoceros (Narwhal) and Ursus maritimus (Polar Bear).

What’s the music like?

Tedeschi has a way of working that is both ambient but incredibly intense too. The five soundscapes here are characterised by thick textures that resemble weather systems, each putting forward prominent melodic features that work in slowly orbiting loops.

Vulpes lagopus is large in scope, the arctic fox taking very slow, recurring musical breaths, establishing ‘D’ as a tonal base but allowing for other thoughts too. Somniosus microcephalus is almost claustrophobic, its profile like that of a big ocean liner or an incredibly dense cloud with small musical points of reference to hang on to. It effectively wraps the listener in a comforting swathe of cotton wool.

Orcinus orca captures the good and the bad of the killer whale, the passage of a large body expertly portrayed but also its foreboding and potentially inflammatory nature. Monodon monoceros – like the narwhal it portrays – is slower and gentler, the music dominated by soft minor key chords.

Finally Ursus maritimus matches the white of the polar bear, with a lovely sound the listener can really dive into. Tedeschi uses a big bass drum and cymbal effect akin to large waves crashing in the near foreground, before the music settles onto a long sustained note and ultimately settles to rest – even hibernation.

Does it all work?

Yes. Tedeschi brings remarkable depth to his compositions, a blend of easy on the ear ambience and cautionary harmonies that imply everything on the surface is not as comfortable as it seems. This is cold, wintry music that moves slowly, best summarised in visual terms like an icebreaker in the Antarctic – but also managing to portray the five different species in the track titles.

Knowing of Tedeschi’s connection to his little girl only heightens the emotional impact of the music.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Despite its difficult title, Algida Bellezza is typical of Glacial Movements’ output. It works for listeners approaching it from the electronic side but also the classical, where listeners will appreciate the natural, stately development of its ideas. Crucially it is also incredibly ambient and immersive!

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Switched On – Line Spectrum: Bruma (Glacial Movements)

What’s the story?

On their website Glacial Movements describe Bruma as ‘an album of exploration. Somewhere cold and safe’. It is the work of Ukrainian artist Oleg Puzan, whose approach is less obviously musical, building sound pictures through a massive array of small figures and bigger, weather-like effects.

What’s the music like?

Atmospheric. You will not find much in the way of obvious melody or harmony, but that is not a criticism, more an observation of the way Puzan works. The development of each of the five tracks on the album is strangely compelling, though each are closely linked together, the change between tracks coming at very definite time divisions. Although Bruma – which appears to mean a kind of sleep or hibernation – seems set to function as background music its very different textures and panoramas mean it has to be listened to in the foreground, dominating the headphones as it moves from comforting sounds to more ominous drones that approach from the distance.

A Set Of Events At The Shore, evocatively titled, is the first track, and as outlined above it is all about atmosphere and noise, creating a space with running water and natural noises – but compromising it with a not altogether pleasant drone that makes itself known quite high up the spectrum.

An intense experience on headphones, with some thick ambience but also what feels like white noise and interference as Fabric Merge progresses. No melodies as such but concentrated atmospheres. Ways gets thicker still, but the ambience and cold acoustic is more reassuring, and one that as a listener you want to dive into, with a rich chord growing to encompass the whole audible picture. The fourth track, Fluidity, has the flow of cold water in a regular pattern to sooth the mind, leading to the 15-minute final track Quietness. This is comforting but only to a point,with a disquieting sense of danger around the edge, as though you’re in a place you don’t want to get marooned in.

Does it all work?

Yes, providing you’re in the right mood. Some of the more high pitched sounds do actually become challenging after a while, but are essential to the whole experience.

Is it recommended?

Yes, because of the intensity of its ambience, though the manipulation of the many sounds on Bruma will not be to every listener’s taste.

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On record: FRAME – The Journey (Glacial Movements)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

The Journey is a set of ten soundscapes focusing on silence. Silence is of course as integral a part of music as the notes themselves, and FRAME – a project started in the 1990s by Eugenio Vatta and Andrea Benedetti – illustrate that beautifully here.

All of the music on this hour-long album is written by Vatta, and is in effect a compilation with Benedetti of FRAME live shows, where their music has followed the evolution of a movie. Their principle is that the album should focus on silence in space, and it does so in ten parts, each named after a planet of the solar system.

What’s the music like?

The idea of music focusing on silence might seem contradictory, but what it does here is focus the mind on the smallest of changes to the overall sound, if you’re listening closely – or, if you’re using the music more in the background, allowing it to evolve without any expectations or pressure. So it is that textures change slowly, like a slow moving body, with long held notes and textures that project an enormous sense of space.

Like Holst, Frame move through the planets in order of distance from the sun – unlike Holst they progress at a sedentary rate, with no surprises but cool, starlit textures to dive into on the way. Also unlike Holst, there is a section for ‘Earth’, so the listener can effectively take the role of a spacecraft flying past. It is mostly calming but there are moments of disquiet near the centre when discords and an insistent lower range tone make the ears retreat on instinct. ‘Mars’ is also a polar opposite, less the god of war than the owner of a very thick sonic blanket. It’s lovely.

‘Jupiter’ has a lot more of the action, as though our craft is passing close enough to get caught up in some of the vast winds that dominate the planet’s weather. ‘Saturn’ is genuinely unsettling, a short piece whose sudden movements of pitch are difficult to comprehend after the serene journey so far. ‘Neptune’ is majestic, a really strong linear wall of harmony. After some more turbulence in Pluto and Charon the arrival is consonant harmony, and represents a natural point of rest.

Does it all work?

Yes, providing ‘The Journey’ is experienced in the right environment. As an aid for busy situations such as commuting it works really well, or as a meditative hour for the brain to zone out. The cool textures are easy on the ear, but while ambience is the key there is a deeply intense heart to this music.

All these components are typical of a Glacial Movements release, with a whole that operates in an ambient space but can be put to meaningful foreground use also.

Is it recommended?

Yes. FRAME’s music takes the listener far from their own shores, immersing them in a wide open world of slow moving beauty.

Further listening

You can listen to The Journey on Spotify below:

Meanwhile the album is available from the Glacial Movements Bandcamp page, where the label’s consistently rewarding catalogue can also be explored.

On record: BVDUB – Epilogues for the End of the Sky (Glacial Movements)

The apocalyptic title suggests a large scale work from BVDUB, aka Brock van Wey, one that deals with the end of mortality. Appearances are deceptive however. The End Of The Sky may in this case be the point where the sky stops being blue and moves to become the dark edges of the universe. Either way, there are some incredibly ambient moments to be enjoyed here.

What’s the music like?

BVDUB manages the delicate balancing act of creating long lasting atmospheres but also dropping in shorter, more melodic loops to keep the listener’s interest high. The music floats on a cushion of air, with a distant voice used for With Broken Wings and Giants Tall. Sparkling Legions Turn to Black uses a far off chant, conducting powerful emotion through carefully constructed foreground loops.

Meanwhile a delicate piano floats over the top of Footsteps Fade If Not Your Pain, the purest of sounds. Long, held background notes create a stillness over which slightly shorter patterns operate – with the addition of outdoor sounds and vocal fragments to create a scene of calm.

Does it all work?

Yes, on several levels. BVDUB creates some wondrously beautiful scenes through this album, conceived on a level that matches the title and the cover image. The tonal bases help, giving the music a clear anchor. This sequence, working extremely well in a single listen, is music that can be taken out from the whole and listened to in smaller chunks, or enjoyed as a whole that literally washes over the ears of the listener.

Is it recommended?

Wholeheartedly. BVDUB provides solace from the rush and incessant noise of everyday life, slowing things down, taking in the awesome scenery and surfing the wave of it.

Ben Hogwood

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On record: AWARE – The Book Of Wind (Glacial Movements)

Summary

Reading the titles given to the chapters of The Book Of Wind is revealing. They sound like an excerpt from a biblical tale, as though recounting Moses and his encounters with God. What they actually appear to be is the beginning of inspiration for this album by AWARE, the alias of Alexander Glück. Like his Glacial Movements label mates he operates largely without obvious rhythm and is free of a harmonic base, but responds to the imaginary text using vivid sound pictures.

What’s the music like?

The tale is told through music that is barely anchored to the ground, existing in a cloud that changes in consistency, density and colour. The 14 excerpts vary in mood and reach a natural apex in the storm halfway through. As the music builds towards this there is a bigger scale strongly implied by the powerful third track until he reached the mountain, while a powerful storm tore the mountains apart has almost visible clouds. Gradually the music subsides and reaches a softer place of rest by the end, the last track and went out dipping to almost inaudible levels before hints of earlier  music return.

Does it all work?

Yes, although the music itself is not quite as varied as the track titles imply it will be. It is a very impressive piece of writing though, the sections hang together very cohesively and the wide scope of the mountain and inclement weather are dominating features.

Is it recommended?

Yes, on the whole, once the lasting emotional power is harnessed.

Ben Hogwood

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